[Interview] Whitney Anne Adams for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN
Courtesy Paramount+
In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN, a documentary filmmaker follows Margot (Emily Bader) as she heads to a secluded Amish community, in the hopes of meeting and learning about her long-lost mother and extended family. Following a string of strange occurrences and discoveries, she soon realizes this community that welcomed them into their home might be hiding something sinister…

Part of what makes this standalone installment, NEXT OF KIN, stand out from the rest of the Paranormal Activity films is the inclusion of an Amish-like community. Given the specific look and feel associated with those types of communities, this meant costumes became all the more important to execute the look and feel of the community. This is where costume designer Whitney Anne Adams comes in. The costuming mastermind behind many horror/thriller favorites including Freaky, Happy Death Day 2 U, Killerman, Adams had an idea going in what sorts of wear and tear might be required for a film of this nature.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky got to chat with Whitney Anne Adams for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN, where they discussed the research process behind prepping costumes for the community represented in the film, how many of the pieces were still worked on whilst on site, and what many did not get to see in the ceremonial room towards the end of the movie.

What went into the research process of preparing the costumes for the community represented in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN?

Whitney Anne Adams: I spent a lot of time with book research about the Amish as well as online sleuthing. We used a modesty clothing company in Upstate New York called Katie’s Mercantile to make most of our costumes, and they know the Amish and their traditions well. Katie’s Mercantile works with them to make some of their pieces, so many of our hats and bonnets were actually made by the Amish custom for us.

What materials were used and how difficult did the pandemic make shipping/costume fitting/etc?

Whitney Anne Adams: We bought nearly all of our fabric from Katie’s and from a couple of fabric stores in Lancaster County, PA, which contains one of the largest Amish communities in the country. Shipping in the pandemic takes a lot longer now, so we have to try to buy things in advance as much as possible. We had a few boxes that we “overnighted” that showed up a few days later!

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Can you talk a bit about the de-aging/wearing-down process? Since a mixture of cotton and polyester was used for the costumes, how did the wearing down process vary between the fabrics?

Whitney Anne Adams: Our rock star ager/dyer Jess Wegrzyn had her work cut out for her with the hundreds of costume pieces that needed to be aged and distressed! Our director Will [Eubank] and I wanted everyone to look like they had been wearing the same few pieces for a long time to sell the isolated nature of this cult. They are pretending to be Amish, so we had free reign to change the rules for this community. Every piece was made from scratch and then had to go through a multistep process so they looked well worn down. The cotton was generally easier to break down than the polyester, but the cotton denim was thick and also took quite a while! Jess used a multitude of materials and processes: rasps and sandpaper, paint, dye, and fake dirt were used among many other things to make it all happen.

Knowing that you guys shot in a more remote location, what impact did that have on getting the costume work done on time? And getting everything to and from set?

This film was definitely difficult logistically! Our Amish farm was just under two hours from Buffalo so we had to stay at hotels nearby while working on location, but the closest hotels were still an hour away from set! Our aging and dying room was back in Buffalo so, our team had to work very hard to try to get everything ready before we started shooting at the farm. Once we got to set, Jess set up an aging and dying station at basecamp as well as on the Amish farm itself so she could continue her work at any location since every single piece needed to go through her hands. It was extremely complicated getting things shipped in too so, our PAs had to drive back and forth from Buffalo quite a few times! We tried to keep it to the absolute minimum, and I even went back and forth a few times myself to ferry costumes to set. We were able to ship a few things to our hotels which helped immensely.

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While we didn’t get a chance to see many of the details of Lavina’s costume, what was the process like designing it? The influence seems kind of Nordic.

Lavina’s ceremonial robe and veil were definitely the most challenging costume pieces to design in the entire film as they required a lot of research and development of our backstory. The family that the Beiler clan is descended from was originally from the Norwegian village of Beskytter. As the story goes, they were tormented by the demon Asmodeus until they were able to trap him in a women’s body and he was passed down from mother to daughter through the generations to keep the world safe from the demon. I wanted the robes to look like they have also been passed down through the family from that time.

First, I looked to symbology in Norse paganism for things that related to our story that I could have embroidered on the robe and veil. I found the Triple Moon/Triple goddess of the waxing and waning moon which represents the three phases of womanhood: maiden, mother, crone which is also related to how the demon affects the women’s bodies. Lavina also wears a silver ring the entire film with this symbol. The next symbol was the Witches Knot which is a symbol drawn in one continuous line and used for protection and banishing. I liked how this symbol could be related to the connected “bloodline” and demon banishment of our story. I also used a pentagram version of the Seal of Solomon as there is a legend of the Seal in which God gives King Solomon the Seal in the form of a ring and the King uses it to defeat the demon Asmodeus which is the demon in our film.

I used red textured fabrics to invoke the color of blood & sacrifice as it is often used in religious imagery as the color of martyrs. Most people also associate red with demons and the devil which also works! After our brilliant tailor, Dana Calanan, made our robes, we took them to Jess to age and distress so they looked hundreds of years old. I wish we got to see them a bit more in the film!

This is the first Paranormal Activity movie I’ve seen, so I know I might have missed out on any Easter Eggs if they were in there. Is there anything fans should keep their eyes out for in terms of costume-related Easter Eggs?

This film is actually a stand-alone film and not related to the other Paranormal Activity films! Though there is a small red herring I put in there which shows Lavina wearing an all-black dress at a few points and fans might have thought she was part of the previous coven before we got the climax of our film.

What is next on the docket for you costume-wise?

I just finished a family adventure film called We Have A Ghost for Netflix, written and directed by Christopher Landon – my fourth collaboration with him! This film was a ton of fun to design – it’s about a ghost that accidentally becomes famous on social media. After two back-to-back films this year, I am taking a little break for the holidays and I have a few possible projects heading my way in 2022!

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN is now available to stream exclusively for Paramount+ subscribers in the U.S. . In addition to its availability on Paramount+ in the U.S., the film will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in the Nordics and Australia.

To learn more about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN, check out our review! All behind-the-scenes images courtesy of Whitney Anne Adams.

Sarah Musnicky
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